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Bad Company

Aftershocks 5.3: Stranded



Aftershocks 5.3: Stranded

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TITLE: Aftershocks: A Story in Shattered Pieces
SUMMARY: There are so few ways she can help.
CHARACTERS: Cuddy, House, Wilson.
R for language and themes.
WARNINGS: Details the aftermath of events in Bad Company, a rough, violent story. Aftermath isn't always pretty; may distress some readers. Adult themes and adult language.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Never will.
NOTES: The pieces of this shattered story are numbered. The first number signifies the number of days that have elapsed since the original event in Bad Company; the second number signifies when the fic occurs during that day.


This morning on the news there was footage of the aftermath of an earthquake. Dazed and devastated people were wandering amidst the chunks and shards of what had been their world, their lives. She had felt a sudden, unexpected stab of recognition. She had almost seen herself there, ragged and dusty, looking for whatever familiar landmarks might remain.

No amount of medical training could have prevented the shockwave of nausea that struck her when they wheeled James Wilson through those sliding doors. Had she not known it was him, she'd never have guessed. In retrospect she thinks she might actually have gotten sick, had House not so effectively distracted her. 

He thinks he's hiding now, locked securely in Wilson's darkened office. As if the Dean of Medicine doesn't have a master key.

There's a reading lamp pointing at the sofa where House lies asleep, in the middle of a snowdrift of paper. It all looks medical: journals, reprinted articles, and things he's pulled off the internet. The sheets are scattered over the floor, the furniture, and across his chest. Cuddy crouches carefully at House's side and reads what she can. 

Everything here is about Wilson. Everything. The latest news in surgery and rehabilitation for badly broken hands. Advanced techniques for nasal reconstruction. Recipes for liquid meals for ... oh, House

She wants to embrace him, wants to soothe him, wants to reward him for trying. He'd never allow it, though. The only reward he'll accept is her willingness to help him take care of his friend, to understand his demands for what they are. 

She'd been looking for him so she could make him do something other than sit around moping and torturing himself. Clinic duty, a fresh case—something to keep him from drowning. Turns out House is a step or two ahead of her, as he so often is; he has already chosen the best possible lifeline. There's no way she'll try to take it from him.

Cuddy stands up again, looking him over. His greying hair and the lines on his face do not make him look any less like a forlorn, orphaned boy. The urge to touch him, to try and be gentle, tender with him, is almost unbearable—and completely foolish. She won't touch; she won't wake him at all. He's lost so much sleep already.

She goes to the door and turns the knob with great care, so as not to make a sound.

Wilson isn't awake either. 

It's unsettling how empty, how bereft of visitors his room always is. There's plenty of stuff, and she supposes that's much better than nothing, but it isn't what she wants for him. It's less than he deserves. 

The nurses have put a cart in here to hold some of the things, gifts from patients who've learned that Wilson was hurt. A little girl has sent him a plush yellow unicorn; a boy (or maybe House) has given Wilson a radio-controlled toy car. There are colorful cards, a few bouquets of flowers, even a candle or two. It's a little rolling shrine full of warmth, fuzziness, and sympathetic words—everything House hates, except for the car. She hopes House won't wreck it, won't try to take the gifts away or poison their meaning somehow. 

All those virtual strangers love Wilson, but only once has she come in and found someone else at his side, and that was Chase. She knows perfectly well that House visits, because of the complaints from the nursing staff, but she has never caught him in the act and she's certain that's how House wants it. That's not what's so upsetting.

The problem is that no one knows where the hell Wilson's family is. She's called his parents, left messages which no one has answered. His brother said he's in the middle of a huge company project and can't leave California. No, he wasn't sure where his mom and dad had gone. He thought this might have been the month of their cruise down the Rhine. No, he didn't know when they'd be back; please tell James he said hello and is thinking of him, hoping for his quick recovery. 

Sure he is, sniped a voice in her mind, so he can stop feeling guilty. 

She might even have called his ex-wives, if she had any numbers for them, but she does not. Wilson's cell phone was lost in the attack. When she asks House, he claims not to have that information either, although he almost certainly does. She's not sure whether to be frustrated or touched by his refusal to help her contact Wilson's exes. It's either selfish or it's loyal and protective. Of course, this being House, it's probably some bizarre combination of both.

Wilson's starting to vaguely resemble himself again. He's still several shades of wrong colors, dark as an approaching storm, but the structure of his face is re-emerging as the swelling recedes. Also, one of the nurses has shaved him. The electric razor sits on the bedside table. That probably hurt a bit, and Wilson probably didn't care. 

She sits down in that awful chair, making a mental note to have it replaced with something softer. As gently as she can, she picks up Wilson's right hand. Before all this happened, she can't recall the last time she ever touched him. He's so injured now that his hand is the only part she dares to ... to caress, she supposes is the word, though it seems strange to think of it that way. To think of James Wilson as someone who might want such a thing. Yet he has never pulled away from her when she does this. She strokes with her thumb, in a slow, easy rhythm.

Wilson sighs in his sleep, curling his fingers around hers. 

He's never seemed to need anything before, not even when the earthquakes hit his own life and shook it apart. Either that or she was so busy trying to keep House alive and working that—no, that's a pointless thought. What matters is what she can do for Wilson now. Every day she has done this, taken his hand and tried to think of something. Every day she has failed.

Now, all at once, she knows. The best thing she can do for Wilson is to take care of House.
  • Yeesh! I ship H/W (I think that is fairly evident) and therefore don't read alot of Cuddy, although I really like her as a character. But I have to say, I was caught off guard by this, in a really good way.

    It was delightful for me to read Cuddy's perspective of things that have been going on since the end of Bad Company. The way you are showing all the angles unfold is painstakingly remarkable.

    The last line was gold.

    And I absolutely adored the paperwork surrounding House, all of it directed at "fixing" Wilson the best he can. So touching!
    • Thanks! While this story isn't slash, we do hope it will please your H/W loving soul.

      These two pieces only developed in the last couple of days, actually. They came as rather a surprise to us, too.

      Cuddy seems to be learning all sorts of new things about these two friends of hers. It's really fascinating to see them from her perspective now and then.
      • I knew I mis-spoke as soon as I posted. Although I have read a great deal of slash, I actually prefer gen/friendship. It's just H/W friendship I gravitate toward. I knew this wasn't headed toward slash, and this disappoints me not in the least. In fact, I do prefer a nice BFF piece with oodles of Hurt! and contrasting Comfort!

        You are delivering very nicely, and I thank you all.
        • Hm? Well, you know, three of the four of us write some slash and one is particularly known for it. It would make sense if some of our readers had hoped for that here.

          We don't really think we're going to disappoint anyone, though.


          Thanks. You're very sweet.

  • Oh, yay for a new part! No crying this time, but I felt incredibly sympathetic for Cuddy. What a bewildering pair to have to content with, and yet the rewards must be huge.
  • I love Cuddy's wisdom and her compassion in this piece, and the earthquake as metaphor is wonderfully apt for what's shaken their lives apart.

    The image of Wilson trusting her enough to curl his fingers around hers in his sleep just gets me every time.
    • You cannot imagine how happy we are to hear praise for this from you. Because the writer of this segment is completely in awe of the way you handle Cuddy.

      She actually considered that the ultimate test would be: Does Corgigirl think this works?


      Thank you so much.

  • Greetings!

    Oh, goodness... this was so worth the wait....

    Be back w/more coherency in a bit....

    • Greetings!

      Love the inadvertent help that Hurricane House was to Cuddy... at least some good came out of it all.... *sigh*

      And the lack of true friends is so telling... and so sad. Who guards the guardians? Who makes the clown laugh? And who heals the healers???

      • Greetings!

        And the best gift that she can give is to take care of House... so touching, this realization. And will make things much easier in the days to come... at least in some ways....

  • The best thing she can do for Wilson is to take care of House.

    That is so very true and so very sad. I love getting Cuddy's POV on Wilson's family and lack of visitors. People send cards and gifts because he's a "nice guy" not because any of them love him. Crap, I refuse to cry until guys have finish this thing and I can start all over from the beginning. You're not making it easy on me. :(
    • (Anonymous)
      That's what got me too and I'm so glad you brought this up in your story. Wilson the nice guy who doesn't seem to have anyone who cares about him except House.
  • He's never seemed to need anything before, not even when the earthquakes hit his own life and shook it apart. Heyyy, how does Cuddy know the title of this series so she can make appropriate metaphors? :D

    This is such a quiet little section, but like all the rest, it says so much. Love the images of House asleep in an avalanche of papers, clinging to the task of making Wilson better as quickly and effectively as possible, and Wilson, alone and broken in his hospital bed beside a cart full of well-intentioned gifts but so few visitors. Where is his family?
  • (Anonymous)
    What an excellent addition to a great series. Cuddy's viewpoint and interaction with House and Wilson is so lovingly portrayed here. Particularly touching is her fleeting regret that she has neglected Wilson's needs in the past in her frantic struggle to save House. Her resolution of this guilt with the insight that "the best thing she can do for Wilson is to take care of House" is moving and profound. As an exploration of this strange and beautiful three-way friendship, this story is a masterpiece.
  • It must have been immensely reassuring to Cuddy to see House throw himself into Wilson's case, showing just what a formidable medical force he is. (And yet, tragically, he can't show the same concern for looking after his own pain and addiction -- that's his flaw that he desperately needs Wilson to try to correct).

    Cuddy's innocent POV is intriguing because she does not know the exact circumstances of what has happened... I can't imagine how she would feel if she knew the truth.

    Boo for Wilson's brother being such a jerk. His whole family is obviously disjointed... and Wilson keeps trying to marry and create new connections with miserable results. House probably really doesn't know just how important he is to Wilson... Gah, the whole situation is just so unbearably sad.

    Sorry to be behind in reviewing
  • I liked Cuddy's observations on House's tortuous obsession with helping Wilson and how Wilson has no one but House in his life despite all the flowers and cards in his room. That she can scope out these details from what other people would overlook makes the sadness of their situation a little more bearable. It's also nice to see her ruminate on everything and keenly figure out what she can do and how to go about it.
  • =] Cuddy's one of my favourite characters, and it's surprisingly difficult to find a well-written Cuddy (or maybe that's just because I mostly stick to H/W fics), portrayed with her unique combination of cleverness, wit, her strong will and enormous heart. Thanks for writing her so nicely.
  • I'm not much of a commentor, so please forgive me.

    I sat back after reading this and wept. It's silly, but I wept because I am left-handed. I thought of the complete loneliness the destruction would bring. Cuddy grasped his right hand, but to me, the right hand is nothing. It is useless. As useless as Wilson's left hand is now. The devestation is so perfect. So utterly cold and bare. You have touched a terrible part of me, and for that I thank you.
  • I love the way you've presented Cuddy here, noticing more than we might have expected, and able to balance unflinching perspective and compassion. I adore that she sees House trying to help Wilson (without yet knowing why he might especially need to in this particular instance) and takes pains not to wake him, and at the same time hopes that he won't wreck the car or try to poison the meaning of the other gifts in his possessive love. She knows him so well: "It's either selfish or it's loyal and protective. Of course, this being House, it's probably some bizarre combination of both."
    • Thank you.

      I still get kind of emotional at this chapter, the way she looks at House and sees that vulnerability and pain, and knows he won't let her comfort him.

      At first it was hard for us to figure out where Cuddy fit into this story, but when we found her place, her scenes flowed really well. Eventually, we got around to most everyone, at least briefly. Of the fellows, it's Chase who figures most prominently in this story.
  • I love Cuddy here... She cares so deeply about both of them <3
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